The country’s first child car seat safety campaign has revealed that up to one in four children are not properly strapped into their car seats, even for short trips. According to the Finnish Road Safety Council Liikenneturva and the Eastern Finland police department, short spins may include outings to the store or from home to daycare.
”It was certainly surprising to find such a high number. There were small children in the wrong kinds of seats and some only wearing seatbelts, which is incredible. Even one-to-two-year-olds were seated either with just a seatbelt or on a booster seat,” said Liikenneturva liaison manager Tuula Taskinen of Kuopio.
Short trip a common excuse
The March car seat campaign was the first of its kind in Finland. It was organised by the road safety NGO as part of training intended for early childhood educators. During the sessions, daycare staff aired their concerns about instances of unsafe practices they had observed as families transported children to and from kindergarten. Police participated in random checks that were implemented at daycares in four Eastern Finland municipalities.
”On a positive note, all children were at least secured in some way. However many people [seemed to] think that the trip from home to daycare is so short that they don’t need to be so fastidious or the family’s second car may not have a child car seat,” Taskinen expanded.
Story continues after photo
She stressed that parents have a duty to ensure that they use appropriate car seats even for a quick spin.
”This is just one of those situations where you see extremes. Some are very poorly organised and others have very carefully thought things through and have even taken their children along to select the [right] car seat,” she explained.
Sergeant Antti Mönkkönen of the Eastern Finland police department also noted that even a short jaunt is nevertheless a journey.
”Anything at all that we cannot influence can happen. When you ensure that everything is in order, at least you don’t have to worry about it,” he added.
70-euro penalty possible
The police officer said that the outcome of the safety campaign closely correlated with what officers had observed on the road.
”For example there are some extreme cases where kids are seated on their mother’s lap in the front seat and secured with a seatbelt that is really tight. The child is then in a really tight spot in the event of an accident. We tend to deal with these cases with quite a heavy hand,” Mönkkönen cautioned.
Drivers face a 70-euro spot fine for improper use of seatbelts.
The officer noted that passengers come off worse in the majority of road traffic accidents involving school-age children. Secured seatbelts are a major factor in traffic collisions, because they protect the head, particularly in the case of young children, he added.
Nationwide car seat campaigns in 2019
The March campaign successfully checked for the correct use of child car seats at a few hundred kindergartens. Both Taskinen and Mönkkönen said that parents had a positive attitude to the campaign.
”Some parents even hugged us. They were happy that the matter got this attention,” Taskinen observed.
Siilinjärvi resident Kirsi Oininen happened to be taking her youngster to daycare during the spot checks and had her gear inspected, something that she said was a welcome development.
”I think that many people are aware of these issues. However there are certainly still some shortcomings and we need a wakeup call,” she commented.
Liikenneturva’s Taskinen said that enthusiasm has grown for rolling out a similar kind of campaign nationwide.
”It generated discussion that a large number of families need a similar kind of guidance on this matter. We have now planned a national campaign for next year,” she concluded.